3 August, 2010
[One] Restaurant, Chapel HillPosted in : Dining in Chapel Hill - NC, Restaurants on by : The Gourmez
100 Meadowmont Village Circle
Meadowmont Village, Chapel Hill
Small plates: $8–$14
[one] (or one or [ONE] depending on what part of the website, building, or business card you look at) is a new restaurant from Shane Ingram, the chef and owner of Four Square in Durham (my review), one of the most acclaimed fine dining establishments in the area. Reportedly, [one] is meant to be a more relaxed version of Four Square, but I’m not sure I’d buy that based on the number of waitstaff milling about this modern restaurant. Perhaps a more updated Four Square would be more apt. The décor was mainly in a Swiss or German design palette, as our friends, the lovely couple at Triangle Vino, dubbed it.
I loved the cut-out backs of the gray and red chairs, but I’ve always been an oddball who thinks gray makes a great color for room décor (my mother’s complaints when I painted my room in essentially the same color scheme as [one]’s in high school were many—that may have been the point). The kitchen is completely open-air with no divisions from the dining room whatsoever except for the blue-underlit bar’s counter. There’s a large wine collection on the left as you enter the restaurant (the wine bottle list is available by iPad), and there’s plenty of seating to accommodate both small groups and large parties. I liked the ambience a lot; it felt like a great option if you are looking for a big-city feel in the midst of the relaxed Triangle.
A fresh, flat focaccia round with cracked salt on top was served before our small plate of steamed kabocha squash dumplings with honey-glazed cipollini onions in a yellow squash curry broth.
I found the use of squash in both the dumplings and sauce a little redundant, but there was an unexpected kick to the curry broth that heightened the flavors nicely. My husband doesn’t like squash usually, but he did like this preparation of it. It was a pretty small portion–an extra dumpling would have been just right. Our friends started with the roasted peach and tomato gazpacho—declared to be “very chunky”—and the Broken Arrow Ranch antelope carpaccio that seemed a bit too small also but was very good.
More bread came out next including a Guinness bread with roasted barley that had a very earthy taste to it and an olive oil ciabetta that was deliciously rich from that oil.
The husband and I split two more small-to-midsize plates as our main course. The winner for both of us was the nightshade risotto verde with ricotta salata. Per our waiter, the nightshade component was a mix of eggplant, tomato, and onion, and the risotto verde was made with a spinach puree.
Portion sizes were perfect this time. The rice may have been a tad too al dente, but otherwise, it was fantastic. The ricotta was invisible but very much present in each bite, and all those vegetables were diced small and cooked into a delicious, bright sauce. Another win for the chef in vegetable presentation as my husband usually doesn’t like eggplant either.
Our second main course was the chicken confit pan focaccia with goat cheese, grilled asparagus, arugula pesto, and a roasted tomato sauce.
After stuffing ourselves with far too much bread earlier in the evening, the thickness of that crust was overwhelming. More importantly, its sheer height and size resulted in less of the absolutely wonderful toppings. The goat cheese was the perfect choice to compliment the chicken and asparagus, and both the pesto and tomato sauces chimed in to create great flavor parties in each bite. If only there had been more of them and less of the crust.
Our friends noted that the stromboli was more of a calzone than a stromboli, but it tasted great. They also made the astute observation that while the plates our dishes were served on were quite fun, the tables were too small to fit them well. There was much reshuffling of glassware throughout the evening. They didn’t have much astute to say about their dessert, however, the milk chocolate caramel tart with peanut butter powder and peanut elixir. Instead, their vocabulary was limited to “Oh my god, this is so good; wow, I love it.” Seeing the lengthy dessert menu, around ten options in all at $9 each, was the main reason I wanted to try [one]. A gourmet dessert menu that long is hard to find. The husband and I ended up with a dessert special of the day, a play on an iced caramel latte.
The glass was lined with ladyfingers heavily soaked in espresso. Inside was a thick layer of chocolate topped with caramel-coffee ice cream and milk foam. It was served with the small bite of molten chocolate cake seen on the plate. The presentation for this dish was a little lacking (not for our friends’ dessert–it looked gorgeous) but it was definitely good and not as similar to tiramisu as you might think. I would certainly eat it again, but I’d probably opt for that caramel-milk chocolate tart first or one of the many other delicious-sounding options on the menu—goat’s milk cheesecake with black pepper gelee and graham cracker foam, anyone?
Dining at [one] wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty darn good, and I was pleased with the atmosphere. For once, I didn’t try the drink list but my husband was happy with his cocktail choices. I’d say I actually like [one] more than Four Square, but to be fair, I’ve only tried Four Square once, at Thanksgiving. The menu definitely has potential, even if I’d personally tweak the dishes we had a little—except for that nightshade risotto, of course. That should stay as is!